Not to many people would travel a great distance to watch a high school basketball team sit down in a stance and play defense but if one were to do so DeLaSalle High School in downtown Minneapolis would be a great destination. Saturday night the Islanders defeated a younger St. Bernards team 68-45 and for most parts of the game they gave the crowd some of the most exciting defense one can watch.
The names John Hertle, Walter Franklin, and LaMonte Hall may not mean to much to a Mr. Basketball committee member looking for the elite of the elite or the Star Tribune looking to fill out it's annual all-metro squad. But to a basketball coach who enjoys in your face physical defense the intensity of these players would mean a lot and the names stick.
At DeLaSalle the basketball staff respects defense and if you can move your feet with the correct positioning, agility, and discipline you are likely to find a role with this basketball team. Back in October at Minnehaha Academy several of the Islanders were taking part in a fall league game where a young Islander was showing flashy offense and a local basketball figurehead said, "he's going to do big things for DeLaSalle starting at the two".
My bet to that person was that Hertle would start over this player because that is the nature of this DeLaSalle beast. Disciplined defense with intensity and agility. John Hertle brings that to the opposition on the wing. Walter Franklin brings it in the form of ball pressure. LaMonte Hall just plain brings it everywhere. Even the stars Jalen Jaspers and Jonah Travis sit down and use their physical frame to carry out coach Dave Thorson's intense orders.
The first time the St. Bernards Bulldogs brought the basketball across halfcourt the young kids looked pretty confident in what they could do. Then as soon as the ball went over the midline feet started moving, arms were flying around, mouths were barking, and there was just a strong sense of harassment from all five in black forcing the guys in blue into the corners. This process repeated itself again and again as DeLaSalle jumped out to a 15-4 lead.
As if the ferocious movements from the players on the floor weren't enough the DeLaSalle bench and crowd get into the action as well. An entire gym full of black coming at an offense in waves with the collective force of a strong, but controlled wave. This is DeLaSalle defense and ultimately it's the reason their size and experience beat St. Bernards by 23 points.
Sure DeLaSalle has offensive talent too. Jaspers helped open the lead with a couple early threes on his way to a 19-point evening. Jalen also did a strong job of defending Bulldog sophomore sensation Ricky Suggs who had only seven points on two of six shooting. Suggs is averaging 16.6 points per game but Jaspers, a U of Mary signed talent, held him to less than half of that.
Leading the Islanders in scoring this year is junior Jonah Travis who scored 17 points in this contest. His point total fell a little below his average of 18.7 points a night but it was another solid performance for Jonah who also recorded another double-double as he had a dozen boards. Also, Hall nailed three treys and the vast potential that is Melvin Collins dropped in four field goals.
The Islanders improved to 10-2 and this is the type of team who come section time could make some legit noise. On one hand you wonder if they have the offensive firepower throughout the line-up to beat some of the other ranked teams in class AAA but on the other hand they have the type of physical athletes and disciplined team defense that could make a team like St. Paul Johnson play a different game than they are used to playing. A smash mouth halfcourt style of basketball. DeLaSalle has been getting up and pushing the ball this year but they still know how to make teams work on both ends of the floor.
DeLaSalle sits at 10-2 on the season looking to return to state for the first time in four years. Coach Thorson has lead his defensive machine to state eight times and three times they brought home championship gold. There has been offensive talent dressed in Islander black and gold but what brings fans through the door is to watch the Islanders sit down in a stance and work with the best of em.